Saturday Quiz – October 25, 2014

Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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    Friday lay day – Give them a job and a surfboard

    The weeks go by quickly when you have fun and its my Friday lay day blog again, which brings some relief because I don’t feel quite as squeezed for time. Denmark seems to know a thing or two that other governments do not. They clearly stood their ground after the population failed to ratify the Maastricht Treaty and forced the European Council to create a special appendix exempting the nation from having to adopt the euro as their currency. Staying out of the Eurozone was very wise. This week, we learned that unlike other governments such as the Australian government, which is legislating to jail any citizen who goes to fight for various Muslim fighting units in and around Syria, Denmark’s approach is to offer them a job to restore their sense of hope in the Danish society and avoid a sense of alienation and social exclusion.
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      Still sinning … a German economist who cannot face facts

      German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, who has been implacably opposed to the Eurozone bailouts and so-called debt mutualisation is at it again with an article in the UK Guardian yesterday (October 22, 2014) – Europe can learn from the US and make each state liable for its own debt – calling for Eurozone states to be forced to take responsibility for their own public debt and became bankrupt if that responsibility leads private creditors to cease providing funds to these states. Like all these vehement (and often German) perspectives on the Eurozone crisis, his solution based on a comparison with the federal arrangements in the US, leaves out the crucial element that renders the comparison invalid – the lack of a federal fiscal function in the Eurozone (compared to the US). Further, his solution would have led to the Eurozone breaking up in 2010 had it been implemented at that time. It’s what happens when one is blinkered by an ideology that does not permit evidence and experience to modify its more extreme dimensions.
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        Posted in Eurozone, US economy | 10 Comments

        Australia’s inflation rate falling on back of weak spending

        The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the Consumer Price Index, Australia data for the September-quarter 2014 today. The quarterly inflation rate was 0.5 per cent (down from 0.6 per cent last quarter) and this translated into an annual rate of 2.3 per cent, down on the 3.0 per cent in the June-quarter 2014. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s preferred core inflation measures – the Weighted Median and Trimmed Mean – are still well within the inflation targetting range and are not trending up. Various measures of inflationary expectations are also flat, including the longer-term, market-based forecasts. This suggests that the RBA may consider that the major problem in the economy is declining growth and rising unemployment, especially in the context of China’s surprise slowdown announced yesterday, and may even cut rates before the year’s end. The evidence is suggesting that the economy is still very sluggish. The benign inflation outlook provides plenty of room for further fiscal stimulus.
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          Posted in Inflation | 3 Comments

          US labour market beset by massive job shortages

          There was an interesting piece of analysis presented on the US Economic Policy Institute (EPI) site a few weeks ago – Labor Market Weakness Is Still not due to Workers Lacking the Right Skills – which showed the “the number of unemployed workers and the number of job openings by industry” as a means of evaluating the nature of the job cycle in the US. The conservatives, who want to build arguments against any fiscal activism, try to explain the massive and persistent unemployment in the US and elsewhere in terms of structural constraints including skill shortages and mismatches. The EPI analysis showed that “unemployed workers dramatically outnumber job openings across the board” and in the individual industries. The conclusion – “the main problem in the labor market is a broad-based lack of demand for workers”. I had been working on a similar story myself since the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data came out on October 7, 2014. Here is what I found, which is a little different to the EPI outcomes but similar and doesn’t alter the facts.
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            Posted in Labour Force, US economy | 5 Comments

            The UK recovery is a false dawn

            A few weeks ago (October 1, 2014), I wrote in this blog – British economic growth shows that on-going deficits work – that the British Chancellor was overseeing an expanding fiscal deficit and public debt ratio, which despite the rhetoric to the contrary, was supporting growth and helping private households increase their saving ratio. The national accounts and public finance data could not support the claim that it was austerity in the UK that was promoting growth. But in drawing that conclusion, I certainly didn’t want to give the impression that the conduct of macroeconomic policy in the UK was appropriate. The point was that growth, albeit tepid, was occurring in the UK and it was not in an environment where the fiscal deficit was being cut. The fact is that the UK economy is in a parlous
            state and such that the word recovery is a totally misleading descriptor for what is happening.
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              Posted in Friends like this, UK Economy | 20 Comments

              Saturday Quiz – October 18, 2014 – answers and discussion

              Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                Saturday Quiz – October 18, 2014

                Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                  Posted in Saturday quiz | 4 Comments

                  Friday lay day – being ashamed of one’s nation

                  It is my Friday lay day blog – a recent institution designed to give me more time for other things. This week, an Australian author, Richard Flanagan, won the 2014 Man Booker literary award for the best book of the year. It was the first year the prize has been extended to all English language literature published in Britain. That is, it included American writers this time. Previously it was confined to that curiosity collection of nations called the Commonwealth, a residual from the British colonial days plus the Republic of Ireland. The book recounts his father’s experiences on the Burma railway during World War 2. The author has caused a stir back here after he told the press after receiving the award that he was, in fact, “ashamed to be Australian” because of the Australian government’s approach to climate change policy and coal. Our Prime Minister has said recently that “coal is good for humanity” and his Government has scrapped taxes on mining and carbon emissions, as a sop to its rich benefactors in those sectors.
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                    The German ship is sinking under the weight of its own delusions

                    Eurostat’s recent publication (October 14, 2014) – Industrial production down by 1.8% in euro area – rightfully sends further alarm bells throughout policy makers in Europe, except I suppose Germany where denial seems to be rising as its industrial production levels fall to performance levels that the UK Guardian article (October 9, 2014) – Five charts that show Germany is heading into recession – described as being “shockingly poor”. The Eurostat data shows that industrial production fell by a 4.3 per cent – a very sharp dip in historical context for one month. Vladmimir Putin and ISIL are being blamed among other rather more oblique possible causes. But the reality is clear – the strongest economy in the Eurozone is now faltering under its own policy failures.
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                      Posted in Eurozone | 13 Comments